5 Things I Learned From 2019

I had a rather middling season in my fantasy leagues this year. My Main Event team was a nightmare, but everything else meandered around the middle (save a tough finals loss in my H2H league), looking like a real competitor for weeks at a time and a lost cause in others. Whether you win big, lose big, or land somewhere in the middle, you should learn something from the eight-month grind (including February and March).

Sometimes the Players Fail, Not the Strategy

Gee Paul, really starting off with some self-examination here by blaming the players! I don’t say this to shirk responsibility, but rather to remind myself that a strategy falling short doesn’t automatically mean it’s a loser. That’s where running a similar strategy across multiple leagues with different players can be useful. I really wanted two big arms to headline my rotations this year, but when Noah Syndergaard’s nauseatingly inconsistent year was one of them in many leagues, I was doomed.

In my Main Event, he was joined by Jameson Taillon, so that was neat and cool and fun. In the past I’ve arrogantly leaned on the idea that I will find pitching, whether late in the draft or on the wire so I’ve been lax on drafting frontend pitching (loosely, within the top 100 picks). I still think two anchors is a viable strategy. It’s one I’ll carry forward in 2020, hopefully with next year’s version of Gerrit Cole and Walker Buehler or even more ideally something like Cole and Shane Bieber… one early and one later (Cole went 18th on average, Bieber around 110th).

SB Margins Are Thin Between Success & Failure

I was targeting about 100 SBs out of the draft and at the risk of focusing too much on my Main Event, I’ll point out that I had just 87 there and got 2 points in the category. Reaching the 100 goal, essentially an extra SB per roster spot, would’ve been worth five more points. Now I realized a bit into the season that 110 was likely the right target. Landing there would’ve been solidly mid-pack. Get a little lucky with some guys beating projection and/or adding some via the wire and all of a sudden I’m in the upper third of the league.

Flexibility Paid the Expected Dividends

It’s still hard to quantify exactly how much positional flexibility is worth, but I made it a focus this draft season and I felt it was worth it as I always had a spot for the pickup of the week across my many leagues. The league is also helping here as they are favoring flexibility among their rosters and giving players more positional eligibility.

Don’t Always Need the Biggest Pickup

One of my biggest focuses for 2019 was improving my FAAB process. Knowing the pool in-depth, improving my bids, and structuring my bids based on need. In past years, I focused too much on the top of the pool and then if I missed out on the biggest pickup of the week, I was either skunked altogether or got someone I didn’t really want. This year, some of my best pickups were my third or fourth guys down, namely Lucas Giolito and Tommy La Stella.

And while I never could’ve projected that they’d be as good as they were, I was legitimately excited to get them at the time even though neither was my #1. Now those wins alone don’t convince me that you don’t have to go for the biggest buy every week, but if you do, you will run out of money. We’re just not good enough as a community at FAAB assessment to know that the top buy every week will be the best player going forward (obviously).

While there are exceptions, you probably should be involved in FAAB every week churning the bottom 1-3 spots of your roster. You can often find gold just by showing up. Remember FAABapolooza? It was May 19th in NFBC leagues when Austin Riley, Brendan Rodgers, Keston Hiura, Willie Calhoun, Nicky Lopez, Corbin Martin, and Oscar Mercado were available in the vast majority of leagues (minor leaguers can’t be FAAB’d until they are called up unless they are drafted and dropped). The group ended up as a bust at large and the cheapest of the bunch, Mercado, was the best bang for the buck. Derek Van Riper inexplicably got him for $1 in his Main Event. Show up. Every. Single. Week.

Stop Betting So Much on Unseen Production

While I did have some big hits this year that I’m proud of (you like how I compliment myself in a piece where I’m supposed to be reflective and humble?), I still bet too much on production levels that haven’t happened and costs that require they happen to make the pick worth it. I wasn’t afraid to pay the Vlad Jr. toll and it flopped spectacularly.

It’s OK and even encouraged to buy rookies, but not at a price where they MUST perform. Pete Alonso couldn’t really hurt those drafting him at a 204 ADP. Hell, even those taking him at hish high of 163 weren’t exposing themselves that much. Even Ronald Acuña Jr. as a top 100 pick in 2018 was cheaper than Vlad and had speed protecting his floor. It’s not that you can’t bet on the come with players, it’s where you place that bet. The top 100 is rarely the right place. It’s just adding unnecessary risk to your team.

So those are a few things I took away from the season. What about you?

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Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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“Show up. Every. Single. Week.”

THIS. Just committing to churning the bottom (even while chasing lateral-ish moves) wound up landing me Mike Minor and Mike Soroka because after their 1-week audition (where I fully intended to move on), they spiked mutant starts, allowing a pivot to hang onto them. Boom, staples for the year.